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ACT Study Plan Template

Many universities are changing to test-optional policies in Fall 2023. This may lead you to believe that tests like the ACT and SAT are no longer important for college applications. 

However, these tests continue to be extremely valuable tools, especially for students applying to competitive programs, schools, and scholarships that receive thousands of applications every year. Even if your top schools don’t require ACT scores, sending in high test scores with your application may help set you apart from other prospective students.

To achieve the best score you can on the ACT, you will have to create a study plan. Your unique study schedule should depend on your study habits and when you plan to take your test. We know it can be difficult to build a study schedule on your own, so we have put together the ultimate guide for creating your unique ACT study plan, including step-by-step instructions, sample study schedules, and resources you can use to improve both your score and your overall studying experience.

Steps to Build Your ACT Study Plan

Let’s go over the steps you need to take in order to start building your unique ACT study plan.

1. Figure Out Your Baseline ACT Score

The first step in building an effective study plan is to assess your current ACT testing abilities by figuring out your baseline score. This will help you determine how much studying you need to do as well as the intensity and timeline for your study schedule. 

Essentially, your baseline score is the score you would achieve if you took the ACT without first following a study plan. To determine your baseline score, you need to take one or multiple ACT practice tests. You can find official ACT practice tests online.

Try to replicate real testing conditions as much as possible when taking your ACT practice test. Set yourself up in a quiet room and use a calculator approved by the ACT for the math section. Keep in mind that the ACT is also timed, so you will need to set time restrictions for each section of the practice test. 

Here are the time allotments for the different sections of the ACT:

  • English: 45 minutes.
  • Math: 60 minutes.
  • Reading: 35 minutes.
  • Science: 35 minutes.
  • Writing (optional): 40 minutes.

Recreating these conditions will help you become accustomed to the testing environment and the test itself. This should give you a more accurate score and could also gradually reduce any test-taking anxiety.

2. Determine Your Target ACT Score

Your target score is the score that you hope to achieve when you take the actual ACT test. This score should be high enough to gain admission at any of the schools where you will be submitting applications or earn your desired scholarships.

You should aim for a target score that makes you a competitive applicant for the schools you hope to attend and the scholarships you hope to earn. Try making a list of ACT scores for the 75th percentile of admitted students at your top schools. Achieving a score in the 75th percentile or higher means that you scored better than 75% of other applicants, setting you apart as a stellar student. 

Once you have completed your list of scores, select the highest score on the list. This will be your target ACT score because it should give you a high chance of acceptance for every school and scholarship on your list.

You should be able to find the scores for your list on the prospective applicant pages for each school’s website or in the requirements for each scholarship.

3. Establish Intensity and Timeline

Once you have your baseline and target test scores, you can use them to determine the duration and intensity of your study plan. Start by finding the difference between the two scores. Knowing how much you need to increase your score to reach your target score will tell you how much to study each week leading up to the test.

Here is a quick guide to help you figure out how many total hours you need to study:

  • Improve by 0 to 1 points: 10 hours
  • Improve by 1 to 2 points 20 hours
  • Improve by 2 to 4 points: 40 hours
  • Improve by 4 to 6 points: 80 hours
  • Improve by 6 to 9 points: More than 150 hours.

Be realistic when creating your timeline. Take into account your other commitments when determining how much time you can allot to studying each week in order to avoid overworking yourself.

4. Choose a Test Date

Try to plan ahead and choose a test date that provides you plenty of time to spread out your studying. We recommend starting as far in advance as possible, anywhere from 3 to 6 months before your actual test date. You also need to pick a date that allows you to have access to your test scores before college and scholarship application deadlines roll around.

5. Gather ACT Study Materials

To study properly, you need access to study materials. You can find ACT practice tests and other free test prep resources like study guides and dedicated practice questions for each subject on the ACT website.

Sample ACT Study Plans

Every student’s ACT study plan may look different depending on their other activities and commitments throughout the week. However, you can use these example study plans to get an idea of where to start and how to structure your own schedule.

6 Month Study Plan

A 6 month study plan may be useful for students who tend to procrastinate or who have a lot of other commitments and need to spread out their studying over a longer period.

Months 1-3:

  • Take an ACT practice test to determine your baseline score.
  • Familiarize yourself with the format of the test.
  • Focus on 2 sections during each month.
  • Check your progress at the end of each month with an ACT practice test.
  • Analyze your results and use them to focus your studies.

Months 4-5:

  • Continue reviewing everything you learned throughout the first 3 months.
  • Spend at least a week focusing on the Writing section.
  • Hone in on a different section during each week of Month 5.

Month 6:

  • Take another ACT practice test to check your progress.
  • Continue reviewing all sections of the exam with particular attention on your weak areas.
  • Rest and relax in the days leading up to the test.

3 Month Study Plan

Students who have a moderate amount of commitments may find a 3 month study plan useful.

Month 1:

  • Take an ACT practice test to determine your baseline score.
  • Familiarize yourself with the format of the test.
  • Focus on two sections, such as English and Reading.

Month 2:

  • Focus on two different sections from the previous month, such as Math and Science.
  • Practice strategies for each section.
  • Keep track of your strengths and weaknesses.

Month 3:

  • Take another ACT practice test to check your progress.
  • Adjust your study plan to focus on improving your weak areas.
  • Review all sections of the test, including your strong areas.
  • Rest and relax in the days leading up to the test.

1 Month Study Plan

Even if you only have 1 month left to study for the ACT, you can still improve your score with a dedicated study plan like this one.

Week 1:

  • Take an ACT practice test to determine your baseline score.
  • Familiarize yourself with the format of the test.
  • Make note of your strengths and weaknesses.

Week 2:

  • Focus on key topics, especially those in which you made frequent mistakes.
  • Do practice problems for each section.
  • Start memorizing important information like formulas.

Week 3:

  • Take another ACT practice test to check your progress.
  • Adjust your study plan to focus on improving your weak areas.

Week 4:

  • Review all sections of the exam, including your strong areas.
  • Focus on improving your weaknesses.
  • Rest and relax in the days leading up to the test.

Get Help From ACT Experts

With Prep Expert, you can take a Self-Paced ACT Prep Course that includes more than 100 essential ACT strategies available through 30 hours of video content that you can watch on your own schedule. If you’d like more hands-on instruction, you can take your pick from our 6-Week Flagship and 8-Week Capstone ACT Prep Courses where our expert instructors offer several hours of guided test prep per week. 

For busy students, our instructors also offer frequent online Weekend Reviews that cover all the topics you’ll need to know for test day and help you find answers to all your last minute questions.

Prep Expert

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